Manufacturers: Syracuse China
User: The Homestead, Hot Springs, Va.
Date of service plate: 1979
Notes: Now the massive Omni Homestead Resort (2022), the first building on the site – constructed in 1766 – was an 18-room log hotel on 300 acres west of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley that was called Hot Springs for the mineral "healing" springs found on the land. In the 19th century a wooden hotel was added in stages.
It was in 1881 that M.E. Ingalls, a lawyer for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company (who would by 1888 become its president), accidentally happened upon the hotel while surveying the surrounding area for a new rail line. Ingalls in 1891 partnered with financier John P. Morgan and other investors to buy the hotel (without any ownership whatsoever by the C&O) with the company name Virginia Hot Springs Co., and with Ingalls as president.
By 1911, after a major fire in 1901 that spared only a few cottages and the spa building, Ingalls and his family became the sole owners of The Homestead and continued an expansion of the property, with the final major addition added in 1973.
The Homestead was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, became a charter member of Historic Hotels of American in 1989, and was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1991.
In 1993, The Ingalls family sold ownership to Club Resorts; it was sold again in 2001; and by 2013 it was sold yet again to current owners, Omni Hotels & Resorts.
It was the early ownership by Ingalls – despite there being no financial connection between the resort and the C&O Railroad – that encouraged the false assumption that The Homestead was owned by the railroad. This was unknowingly perpetuated in "Dining on Rails" and "Teapot Treasury" and has added considerable cachet among collectors to china used at The Homestead for only that reason. In particular, its early china with floral border pattern and shield with words "Virginia Hot Springs" has come to be commonly – but erroneously – known as associated with the C&O.
That said, china from The Homestead should not be considered to be railroad china or railroad-related but still beautiful and collectible in its own right as coming from one of America's grand hotels.
This lion service plate has a rich red border with coin gold lines on the rim and verge with the following order information from Syracuse:
Underglaze decoration Shad. Full Rim Crimson
Underglaze decoration Decal Black Backstamp
Overglaze decoration Decal Gold Crest 4"
Overglaze decoration lines gold 1/8" edge 1/16" verge
The plate was featured in the cookbook, "Dining at the Homestead," by Albert Schnarwyler, Eleanor Ferguson, James Ferguson. It was order #67300, originally ordered on March 14, 1979 in the Elton shape as a service plate. In the center of the well is a coin gold rampant (standing) lion facing left. Among the notes related to this design is one about 1983 pricing, but there is no indication of any subsequent order having been made. The plate's backstamp says: Exclusively designed for THE HOMESTEAD plate not offered for sale. (This pattern overlapped with use of the big green H pattern with floral border that was offered for sale at the resort, and its backstamp was probably intended to head off interested plate flipping diners who wanted their own gold lion plate, too.)
For related info:
Homestead, The – Virginia, by Buffalo and Syracuse
Homestead 2, The – Virginia, by Mayer and Homer Laughlin
Homestead 3, The – Virginia, Nature Study plates by Syracuse
Homestead 4, The – Virginia, by Syracuse
Homestead Restaurant, The, – Illinois, by Syracuse (unrelated)
Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Cookbook photo: Rick Pearson